To understand spinal anatomy, one needs to learn a few terms used by doctors.
The body is divided by three imaginary planes (the sagittal, transverse, and frontal planes) as shown in the diagram.
X-rays are usually viewed as lateral images (from the side) or anterior/posterior images (front to back). CT scans and MRI scans of the body are displayed in the transverse, sagittal and coronal planes.
These terms describing position are also used by doctors to describe the locations of nearly everything in the body. For example, the neck is superior to the chest and the shoulder joint is lateral to the collar bone.
Other Common Anatomical Terms
Proximal – Closer to the center of the body.
Distal – Further from the center of the body.
Superficial – Closer to the skin.
Deep – Further from the skin.
Dorsal – Towards the back of the body.
Ventral – Towards the front of the body.
Pronate – Turn the palms up or the feet inward.
Supinate – Turn the palms down or the feet outward.
Abduction* – To move away from the middle of the body.
Adduction* – To move toward the middle of the body.
*These two words differ by only one letter. The third letter, "d" or "b" makes all the difference and can cause confusion.
Extension – To straighten out a joint.
Flexion – To bend a joint.
Dorsiflexion – To bend the foot upward at the ankle.
Plantarflexion – To bend the foot downward at the ankle.
Cranial – Closer to the head.
Caudal – Closer to the buttocks.
Foramen – A hole or opening
Fossa – A flat surface or a depression.
Lumen – The opening of a tube (like the center of the windpipe or a blood vessel).
Prominence – An area which protrudes or sticks out.
Tubercle – A bump.